1 History of Classical Music 1600 -2000

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The History of Classical Music (1600 – 2000) Bach - Brandenburg Concert No.3

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The Baroque Period (1600 – 1750)

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The Baroque period was an important time in the history of the world. Galileo, Kepler and Newton were discovering new ways to explain the universe. In music, art, architecture, and fashion, fancy decoration and ornamentation became the rule. Both men and women wore wigs and coats with lace. Throughout the Baroque period, composers continued to be employed by the church and wealthy ruling class. This system of employment was called the patronage system. As the patron paid the composer for each work and usually decided what kind of piece the composer should write, this limited their creative freedom. Vivaldi - The Four Seasons ( The Spring)

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During the Baroque period, instrumental music became as important as vocal music. The Baroque period saw a rise in music for flute, oboe, bassoon, trombone, valveless trumpets and horns, harpsichord, and organ. Recorders became less popular, and viols were gradually replaced by violins, violas, and cellos. Timpani was the only percussion instrument used in serious music. The most important composers of this period were :

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The Classical Period (1750 - 1820) Mozart - Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

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The years of the Classical Period saw many changes in the world.  The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars changed the face of Europe.  During the Classical period it became more and more possible for the public to enjoy and participate in leisure activities. In the music world, the patronage system of the Baroque began to die out and was replaced by the first public concerts where people paid to attend.

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Instead of the sudden changes in style and trills of Baroque music, the music of the Classical period tended to be simple, balanced, and non-emotional. Known as absolute music, classical works were written for their own sake, not for dancing or any other special occasion. It was performed in the recital or concert hall. Three instrumental forms were developed: the concerto, the symphony, and the sonata. Beethoven - Symphony 9 Mov. 4th

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Symphonies had three movements (fast-slow-fast), but some added an extra, dance-like movement before the last movement. Vienna was the musical center of Europe, and most serious composers spent part of their lives there.

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The Romantic Period (1820 - 1920) Chopin - Polonaise “Heroic”

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Music saw many changes during the Romantic period. Composers expanded existing musical forms and developed new forms as a way of expressing themselves. Thus, a huge variety of instrumental and vocal music appeared on the scene.  There were no restrictions on the length of a piece, the number of  movements, or the number of instruments or voices used. The operas of Richard Wagner sometimes last 6 hours.  Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony requires an oversize orchestra, a full choir, and vocal soloists.

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It was during the Romantic period that most of the band instruments came into being as they are today.  The invention and widespread use of valves on brass instruments and new key systems on woodwind instruments made them much easier to play, encouraging composers to write more music for them. The Romantic Symphony was converted into an expanded version of the Classical symphony. It is much larger in size and in length with the addition of many more instruments and sometimes more than four movements. Tchaikovsky - Concert No.1 for Piano & Orchestra

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Romantic miniatures such as the nocturne, impromptu, etude, and ballade become extremely popular, as they were short , easy to listen to and they concentrated on one single musical idea. The romantic composers also merge fine poetry with beautiful music. Operas tended to concentrate more on human drama, than on romanticized nature or mythological symbolism as many of his predecessors had done.

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Also a new trend called nationalism inspired composers to incorporate native folk songs and styles into their music. Russia was the leader of the Nationalist movement, with composers such as Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. Also Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak composers from the Czech Republic, relied heavily on folk tunes and popular dance rhythms, such as the furiant and dumka, in his symphonies and chamber music. Strauss - Die Fledermaus Overture

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Modern and Contemporary Music (1920 – 2000) Maurice Ravel - Bolero

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Impressionist Music A 20th century offshoot of Romantic music is called impressionist music. However, where Romantic music is like a sharp, clear picture of a friend, impressionist music is like a blurry, vague painting of the same friend. The most famous composers of impressionist music were Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Due to his theoretical innovations, Debussy was regarded as a radical in his composition classes at the famous Paris Conservatory of Music.

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Neo-Classicism An important type of 20th century music is neoclassical. "Neo" means new, so neoclassical music is new music that is similar to music of the Classical period. While neoclassical music sounds modern in many ways, it is written following the basic forms and ideals of the Classical period. A famous neoclassical composer is Igor Stravinsky. His music uses many different key signatures and time signatures, and sometimes more than one at a time. One example is the Rite of Spring Shostakovich - Waltz No.2 Extrait of the Suite Jazz No.2

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Atonal Music One composer, Arnold Schoenberg, devised a completely new system of composing by using the 12 tone scale. The resulting music is called atonal. The scale uses all 12 chromatic notes equally. Rhythms are irregular and unpredictable. Joined by Alban Berg and Anton Webern, the three formed the Second Viennese School. Both Berg and Webern followed Schoenberg in abandoning traditional tonality and melody, and in writing concentrated short pieces.

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There have been more types and styles of music written in the 20th century than ever before. In the 20th century, the only limit is the composer's imagination.

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THE END March 2008 - AVM Reference: www.classicalarchives.com

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